Mild morning humidity and welcomed cloud cover – not to mention the musical stylings of Green Day and Matchbox 20 – greeted the Irish and its media contingent for Practice No. 9 of 19 total sessions planned before the Irish begin preparations for the season opener vs. South Florida.
Arriving late and in shorts and shells for the full-pads practice was senior defensive end Ethan Johnson, who did not participate in the media’s viewing of defensive line drills but showed no noticeable malady.
Also not seen today: senior linebacker Anthony McDonald, freshman safety Eilar Hardy, and sophomore offensive tackle Tate Nichols (though I’m one man on three football fields over about 30 minutes, so players – even those 6’8” 320 – could conceivably blend into the masses.)
My viewing period included Bob Diaco’s group working on pursuit angles – full speed from the snap through the whistle and back into line prior to the next unit’s reps.
The first unit varied little, though sophomore Kona Schwenke took reps in place of the then-absent Johnson, with Sean Cwynar and Kapron Lewis-Moore along the front three; outside linebackers Prince Shembo and Darius Fleming flanking the perimeter; and inside ‘backers Manti Te’o and Carlo Calabrese holding down the fort in the middle.
I later saw Calabrese’s classmate Dan Fox take reps alongside Te’o, but Calabrese appeared in said spot more often during our brief viewing.
Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter traded first-team reps at safety alongside team captain Harrison Smith while Robert Blanton and Gary Gray predictably held down the first string cornerback positions.
Second Unit: By the time I made the two-field trek, sophomore Louis Nix took his rep with the second unit, but he appeared to rotate in with the 1s on my walk over (40 yards away, so take that for what its worth). Cwynar took the remainder of first-team reps, however. Freshmen Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch flanked Nix on the second unit defensive line, with Ishaq Williams and Danny Spond operating as the outside ‘backers, and Kendall Moore and Dan Fox splitting the middle.
Austin Collinsworth and Danny McCarthy operated at safety with Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson manning the corners.
Tyler Stockton, Chase Hounshell, and Hafis Williams on the line with the towering duo of Troy Niklas and Steve Filer aligned outside. Sophomore Justin Utupo worked at inside ‘backer with David Posluszny, while walk-on Chris Salvi took one safety spot, as did fellow walk-on Andrew Plaska (it was here Hardy was conspicuous in his absence), while the freshmen tandem of Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson worked on the corners.
Fourth-unit scholarship competitors in the drill included linebackers Anthony Rabasa, Jarrett Grace, and Ben Councell; defensive linemen Brandon Newman and Tony Springmann, and
Working first in tandem, the units appeared as follows as each pair of inside linebackers bursting from a two-point stance to shed a block and breakdown for the (imaginary) ball-carrier:
1st: Manti Te’o and Dan Fox
2nd: Carlo Calabrese and Kendall Moore
3rd: Justin Utupo and David Posluszny
4th: Anthony Rabasa and Jarrett Grace
The linebackers then congregated as a unit for pass-drop drills with the following alignment:
1st: Manti Te’o, Carlo Calabrese, Darius Fleming, and Prince Shembo (Dan Fox subbed for Calabrese on a later rep).
2nd: Danny Spond, Dan Fox, Kendall Moore, and Ishaq Williams
3rd: Justin Utupo, David Posluszny, Troy Niklas, and Steve Filer
4th: Jarrett Grace, Anthony Rabasa, Ben Councell, and walk-on outside ‘backer Jonathan Franz.
Irisheyes.com will have more on today’s practice and wrap up the team’s first week of August camp following post-practice interviews with Brian Kelly and select Irish players.
The media’s next access period is the team’s Media Day, Tuesday, August 16. Brian Kelly’s Irish will have concluded 12 practices including a pair of two-a-day sessions prior to the event.